As we learned in the main Fito post, Amber Nelson took a photo of the painted Imagine on Emerson above Adeline almost every day for two years. The photo was the last step in a daily ritual: look over the garden and marvel at the growth since yesterday; close the best of the decaying matter already fallen from the plants; arrange a mandala on the mosaic; thank Fito and kiss the spot where his blood had spilt; and photograph it.
Many faith traditions embrace repetitive prayer. Buddhists, Hindus, Jewish mystics, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholics all have traditions of repetitive prayer. Sure, there are those who run with the Gospel of Matthew and point to the admonition of Jesus against “vain repetitions” and argue that repetitive prayer is displeasing to God. But – it’s there.
There is obviously something to be said for repetition. Nelson was reaching for something with her daily ritual and these photos.
I included collages that she made of these photos in the main post. She sent me the individual photos, which I present here in full size.
This complete collection is not for the faint of heart. It is not everybody’s cup of tea. It is not for the weak of spirit. It is not for the casual observer. It is not everyone’s idea of a good time. At all.
But if you’re here, take a look. Go quickly if you’d like. But let it wash over you. As I sized the photos one by one and inserted them, I felt the power repetition. I felt, in a tiny way perhaps but – I felt her search.
All photos are by or courtesy of Amber Nelson.
And then, al final, at the two-year mark:
The devotion that went into this ritual evokes in me a memory of sending wishes to a friend who was gone.
In early 1983, my friend John Rice-Trujillo vanished while swimming in Hawaii.
John was a lawyer with the UFW. This legal department reunion photograph is in a Parker Street backyard in the summer of 1981, by which time Cesar had fired all of us. I am wearing a Hawaiian shirt towards the right end of the second row. John is ust right of me in the photograph, with a beard.
His body was never found. We held a service for him at the Teatro Campesino theater in San Juan Bautista. Luis Valdez led the service. John’s jazz band played the Coltrane version of “My Favorite Things” with John’s piano, leather jacket, hat, and cigar there. Later the Teatro Campesino sang the songs that we had thought we would be singing for our entire lives.
Luis had a large urn on the stage, set between wild flowers that John’s wife Celia and children Maya and Javier had picked that morning. Luis invited us to bring a note to John to the service, explaining that when a life ends suddenly, the soul is confused and lingers for a while before passing through. We placed our notes in the urn. Luis lit a fire and the wishes in the notes went up in smoke – to John’s spirit.
That was our way of sending John wishes. Amber has hers. I can relate.
And – I still have an occasional dream about John. In the dream I see him and I say, “I KNEW that you were alive. I have had dreams about seeing you alive and now I am seeing you alive.”
I asked my friend about the draft post here with its repetitious ritual. “George Harrison – ‘Awaiting On You All‘ – By chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free.” Yes, that’s the point. With these photographs, Nelson sought to be free and sought freedom for Fito.
Anything else, my friend?